The Role of Race in Scheduling of Football Games

The University of Delaware and Delaware State University are located 45 minutes apart in one of the nation’s smallest states. In college football the two schools play in the same division but have never scheduled a game against each other. In contrast, the University of Montana and Montana State University have played more than 100 times.

Many observers believe that race has played a major role in explaining why the University of Delaware and Delaware State have never scheduled a game against each other.

Delaware is a former slave state in which blacks are nearly one fifth of the total population. The University of Delaware was once closed to blacks, and today blacks make up only 6 percent of the student body. Delaware State University is a historically black institution. 

While race may have played a role in the past, it is doubtful that it is now the overriding factor in the reason why the two schools have never been scheduled to play football. This becomes apparent in the fact that the two schools play each other in almost every other intercollegiate sport.

A more logical explanation is that the University of Delaware is merely protecting its turf. The University of Delaware has a storied football history. As such, it has a major recruiting advantage, among both black and white football players, within the state of Delaware. More than 42 percent of the players on football scholarships at the University of Delaware are black. The University of Delaware is probably unwilling to risk a loss on the football field to its cross-state rival for fear of losing this recruiting advantage.

But fate intervened in this controversy. Both schools qualified for the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Football Championship Subdivision playoffs and the rankings called for the first-ever matchup between the in-state rivals. As expected, the University of Delaware won handily 44-7.

Delaware State would like to play the University of Delaware each and every season. To date, the University of Delaware has not committed to another meeting.